Soulforce Letter to Time Magazine

Time
Attn: Howard Chua-Eoan, Managing Editor
1271 Avenue Of The Americas
New York, NY 10020

December 20, 2006

Dear Editors:

When Time published James Dobson’s "Two Mommies Is One Too Many" in the December 11th issue, Soulforce launched a petition asking the magazine to check Dobson’s facts and contextualize his statements about research on same-sex parents with evidence from credible social science. In the week since the petition was launched, we have gathered more than 3,600 signatures, which are enclosed with this letter.

Those of us at Soulforce were encouraged by the magazine’s decision to publish a response from Jennifer Chrisler of Family Pride on TIME.com, although we were disappointed that it was only featured on the home page for one day. We want to urge Time to continue to hold Dobson accountable for his erroneous statements by publishing a follow-up story or editorial in the print edition.

In a recent email campaign, Focus on the Family asserts that Time checked Dobson’s facts and gave its imprimatur to his assertions. At Soulforce we have a commitment to documenting Dobson’s misrepresentation of social science research, and we know that he often relies on narrowly defined claims that allow him to remain within the letter of the law even as he violates the spirit of truth.

For example, in "Two Mommies Is One Too Many," Dobson asserts that "more than 30 years of social-science evidence indicates that children do best on every measure of well-being when raised by their married mother and father." We respectfully direct your attention to the specificity of Dobson’s language choice. Dobson does not claim that children do better with heterosexual parents rather than homosexual parents because the studies to which he refers simply do not address the sexual orientation of parents. The American Psychological Association, in its "Statement on the Mischaracterization of Parenting Research," calls this bluff:

Opponents of marriage rights for same-sex couples argue that children without both a mother and father have poorer physical and mental health, poorer academic achievement, greater likelihood of substance abuse, higher risk of suicide, and greater criminal propensity. The studies they cite, however, examined children of divorced parents and of single parents, and thus support the conclusion that – all else being equal – children fare better when raised by two parents than by one.

In other words, Dobson is making unwarranted extrapolations of the sort that undergraduates learn to avoid in even the most rudimentary research methods course. Such failures of logic and integrity should find no refuge in the nation’s most respected newsmagazine.

In the past week, two of the researchers that Dobson cited in the pages of Time, Carol Gilligan and Kyle Pruett, have spoken out about Dobson’s misuse of their research. Pruett objects that Dobson "cherry-picked" statements from his work and cautions that "this practice is condemned in real science, common though it may be in pseudo-science circles."

Pruett and Gilligan are only the latest social scientists to protest Dobson’s distortion of their research. In summer 2006, the Associated Press ran a story about Dr. Judith Stacey, Professor of Sociology at NYU, who claims that Dobson manipulated her research to support discrimination against LGBT families. These and other instances of Dobson’s misrepresentation of social science evidence are widely available, which makes it all the more troubling that Time has provided a forum for Dobson to violate once again the standards of scholarly and journalistic honesty.

When Dobson uses a trusted publication like Time to spread his half-truths and misinformation, it is a crisis for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Ultimately, statements such as Dobson’s are used to support the denial of civil rights and even to justify violence against LGBT people. Although it may be less obvious, we believe that Dobson’s column in Time is also a crisis for journalistic integrity. We hope that Time will join us in closing the credibility gap that occurs every time Dobson makes false statements and gambles that most readers will never see the counterpoints or corrections that are published, literally and figuratively, in the margins. We urge you to publish a follow-up column or article in the print edition of Time.

Sincerely,

Jeff Lutes
Executive Director, Soulforce

Soulforce Asks TIME Magazine to Check Dobson’s Facts About LGBT Families

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: December 13, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Austin, TX) — Soulforce has launched an online petition asking the editors of TIME magazine to check James Dobson’s facts about lesbian and gay parenting.

In this week’s TIME (12/18/06), James Dobson responds to the news of Mary Cheney’s pregnancy by once again invoking "30 years of social-science evidence" to support his claim that children do best "when raised by their married mother and father."

In spite of Dobson’s reputation as a benevolent family therapist, his views on lesbian and gay parenting do not reflect the mainstream of American professional organizations concerned with researching and promoting children’s wellbeing. In a 2004 policy statement, the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy reported "no evidence that same-sex couples or family units vary significantly from heterosexual couples or family units in terms of aspirations, hopes and goals, or in outcomes for children."

In response to Dobson’s editorial, Soulforce contacted Dr. Christopher R. Martell, President of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Issues. According to Dr. Martell:

Over and again the data show that a loving and safe home environment is important, not the gender of the parents. The mainstream research is so clear on this matter that the American Psychological Association’s resolution on Sexual Orientation, Parents, and Children, which was adopted by the APA Council of Representatives in July, 2004, states: "the APA supports the protection of parent-child relationships through the legalization of joint adoptions and second parent adoptions of children being reared by same-sex couples."

The American Psychological Association, one of the world’s largest mental health organizations, would not have supported the protection of legalized adoption by gay and lesbian parents if the data had suggested that children were at risk in such households.

TIME has a history of excellent coverage of LGBT issues. In recent years, the magazine has been nominated multiple times for GLAAD media awards. According to Soulforce Media Director Paige Schilt, "We applaud TIME’s past coverage. With this petition we are asking the editors to continue this tradition by checking Dobson’s facts on lesbian and gay parenthood."

Schilt continued, "Soulforce and other organizations have repeatedly documented Dobson’s misleading statements about the research on LGBT families. In the interest of journalistic integrity, publications such as TIME must contextualize his statements with evidence from credible, peer-reviewed research."

The online petition can be found at www.soulforce.org/petition/2


Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.

Good News For Mary Cheney: Focus on the Family Is Wrong About LGBT Families

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: December 7, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
******************************************

(Austin, TX) — In today’s New York Times, a story about Mary Cheney’s pregnancy included a statement from Focus on the Family spokesperson Carrie Gordon Earll, who questioned the expecting mother’s judgment: "Just because it’s possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father doesn’t mean it’s the best for the child."

In response, Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes issued the following statement: "We wish Mary Cheney and her partner, Heather Poe, a future full of love and joy. We find it unconscionable that Focus on the Family has exploited their good news in order to once again ignore or distort the social science research on same-sex parent families."

Lutes, who is himself a family therapist and a father, continued, "Focus on the Family’s views do not reflect the mainstream of American professional organizations concerned with researching and promoting children’s wellbeing, nor do they reflect the consensus of credible, peer reviewed research."

In 2004, a policy statement from the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy reported "no evidence that same-sex couples or family units vary significantly from heterosexual couples or family units in terms of aspirations, hopes and goals, or in outcomes for children." Many other organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have issued position statements in support of adoption rights and protections for same sex parents and their children.

In 2001, sociologists Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz published a comprehensive review of the social science research on lesbian and gay parenting in the American Sociological Review. In an interview, Dr. Stacey concluded that "there is not a single, respectable social scientist conducting and publishing research in this area today who claims that gay and lesbian parents harm children."

In a 2006 interview in the Wisconsin State Journal, Stacey commented on the most recent wave of research: "The kids are fine. There’s no evidence whatsoever that children of gay and lesbian parents have noticeably different outcomes on mental health."

In fact, Stacey commented, children of same-sex parents may turn out even better by some measures: "It’s not because of the sexuality but because of selection factors. It’s because these are wanted children…. When you’re looking at heterosexual parenting, you have a lot of accidental" pregnancies.


Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.